Kim Hillhouse brings a lot of SUP race experience to the table in this interview including 2 Chattajacks. If any ladies are nervous about their first Chattajack reach out to Kim, she will help you! She’s a warrior, super helpful, and her only hurdle is her own strength (last year she snapped her paddle mid-stroke!).
What was life like for you 10 years ago?
In 2005, I was chasing after a 4 year old and a 1 year old. Running was my athletic sport of choice - anything from 5Ks to 1/2 marathons every weekend.
Tell us about your day job
You might call it my day job, but to me, it’s more like my “4am job”. I’m a graphic artist and web designer. I love that I’m able to set my own hours, even if that means the alarm goes off at 3:30am. My most important job though, is raising my two boys to be positive contributors to society.
When was your first SUP race and what was it like?
Lake Blue Ridge - 2012. I had been paddling SUP recreationally for a few years. The thought of racing had never even crossed my mind. I didn’t even know there were races in North GA. When I was told about the Blue Ridge Race, I signed up right away thinking it might be fun. For some reason I thought I had to have a race board, so I bought one second-hand (not knowing I could have raced on my little 10’ rec board). I remember singing and bopping along to my tunes as I paddled, enjoying the weather and being around other like-minded peeps. I had a great time and met some really cool people who are the backbone of my race training today.
It is race day – what do you do to get ready?
It really starts the day before. I drink a ton of water. Load my board and paddle on/in the car. Check that my Suunto and Speedcoach are charged. Prep my hydration/nutrition and place it in the fridge. I set out my gear and race clothes. Pack a bag for after the race (towel, dry clothes, recovery drink, etc). After all of that prep, I go to bed early and stress-free. Race Day, all I have to do is wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, grab my gear and hydration/nutrition, and go.
Do you eat anything particular before a race?
If I’m traveling, I like to stop at a Cracker Barrel - I really like their oatmeal. Otherwise, it’s coffee, OJ, steel-cut oats with salt and butter or yogurt and granola. So far the tradition at Chattajack has been to eat at Waffle House - oatmeal, 4 egg whites smothered with ketchup and Tabasco, grits, cinnamon-raisin toast, coffee, OJ, and water. Never gonna change that!
What are 3 things important to you in order to go into a race with confidence?
1. Know the race course ~ 1. study the course map, 2. talk to the local racers about the course, 3. if there is time, paddle part or all of the course.
2. Prep gear/hydration/nutrition/clothing the night before.
3. Getting to the race early enough to make sure everything is where it needs to be before the race meeting.
What’s your most embarrassing race moment?
Yelling, “I hate this F***ing Paddle!” as I came across the finish line at Chattajack last year — right in front of David Leach (and a crowd of spectators). Unbeknownst to me, it was David’s paddle that enabled me to cross that very finish line. My right shoulder was on fire from pulling the larger blade and longer shaft thru the previous 16 miles of Tennessee river. My hands were blistered and ripped to shreds from the unfamiliar wax David used for grip. I was hungry and I was cranky - I should have been beyond grateful! When David told me it was his paddle I was holding, and that he had to pull out of the race because of equipment failure and a sliced foot, I felt awful. I wanted the water at Hales Bar to just swallow me up.
At what moment did you know you were totally hooked on SUP?
2010 - paddling in the crystal clear waters of Kiholo Bay with a bunch of rays and spinner dolphins.
What’s the first thing you do after you cross the finish line?
Sit. I always stick around to cheer on the other races, whether it’s on land or in the water.
What are 2 things you’d like to improve upon this season?
1. Balance 2. More balance. I seem to have a knack for falling.
If you could have custom graphics done on your board without any limits what would you like?!
I’ve been lucky to design the graphics for my last 2 boards. My next board will be totally different - I’m thinking “the Mystery Machine” from Scooby Doo.
Where’s your favorite place to paddle?
From my parent’s house on Enchanted Lake, down the canal to Kailua Bay, over to Lanikai Bay, and out to the Mokulua Islands. Absolute Heaven on Earth!
What’s the one piece of paddle gear you can’t live without?
It’s gotta be a running cap or visor that not only shades my eyes, but stops the sweat (and subsequently, sunscreen) from dripping into my eyes.
What do you do when you’re not paddling or working?
I’m either running trails with my pooch, Bo, or I’m doing something with my kids (lately it’s been attending soccer games and nagging them to get their homework done).
If you could be a rock star who would you be?
None. Stage fright! And can’t carry a tune to save my life.
If you could be any animal which one would you choose to be?
Spinner Dolphin… because they always seem to be having a party in the water, plus they get to swim and play with my favorite animal, the honu.